Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Warning: A Possibly Unpopular Opinion Awaits You

Hi everyone!

I hope you have all had wonderful weeks. It has been kind of an interesting week in the online bookish world, mostly related to stuff coming out of ALA. If you are not a book blogger, feel free to skip over this section, it's pure business, and likely to bore you.

I am not a librarian, as you may know, but I am sympathetic to the frustrations expressed this week, although the way in which those frustrations were expressed was often less than ideal. Every once in awhile that old fire of loyalty to book bloggers flares up in me, and this week was one of those occasions. I don't mind a discussion about whether or not book bloggers should be welcome to ALA, after all, that is not my area of expertise. I do mind when it veers into the territory of whether or not book bloggers have meaning/are useful/have importance. The conversation really shouldn't become about whether or not book bloggers "sell books" or how much traffic they have to their blog or any of that, if the initial question is whether or not they should even be welcome to the exhibit hall at ALA. After all those questions are irrelevant to determining that. I sometimes think the fight becomes about who matters the most to publishers, which may be a related argument, but only derails the real issues that should be addressed in this case. Which is ultimately what is the purpose of the exhibit pass to ALA and who should be allowed to purchase it, and since I am not a librarian or even a member of ALA, that is not something I can really comment on.

What I can say is this. I've been doing this book blogging thing for awhiiiile now and I've been in the position where I was fighting for book bloggers to be recognized as important to publishers and have access to ARCs, I was on a panel at BEA 2009, and I even helped organize the first Book Blogger Con! I started Book Blogger Appreciation Week in part to try to raise the profile of book bloggers and I've gone to BEA, ALA, and various book festivals. I helped create the INSPYs--a blogging award for books. With the help of Lenore, I organized one of the first book drives where we tried to sell a set number of books for an author online. I mean I have been in the trenches fighting this fight. And I've sort of come out on the other side of it. I do think book bloggers are important, and I think some book blogs do a great job of reviewing books straight out of the gate and being a great resource for readers and other professionals. But one size does not fit all when it comes to book blogs.

What I'm trying to say is this: it's true that some book blogs may be very important to the industry by providing coverage of new books and helping to create a sense of buzz. But I actually think that the really true and valuable work that a book blogger does is to sustain a culture of literacy. Lately, I've been amused to see bloggers read books that came out a few years ago, that I may have even read, and COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT. And let's be real, that's often what happens to these hot ARCs everyone wants to get their hands on--they are forgotten in months time. There is a persistent culture of consumerism in book blogging that is exhausting and draining and detrimental the greater work of nurturing and cultivating a love for reading. It doesn't matter if the books you talk about on your blog are the latest buzziest books...what matters is that you enjoy reading them.

Don't misunderstand, I sometimes get ARC envy, too. I wanted Level 2, and Carnival of Souls, and a few others from BEA. (I got Carnival of Souls at ALA, tho, yay!) I think there are some blogs that do a GREAT job of reviewing as a service for others--librarians, booksellers, etc. But I don't think every blog has to be that way, and I think what can make book blogs truly unique is that we can be about something a little more important, that is to say, keeping reading a relevant and social aspect of our lives.

I've said it here many times, but I will say it again--the blogs that have meant the most to me throughout the years have been the ones that personalize the reading experience. I don't often go rushing to the blogs that will show me the cover of a new book, or have a million giveaways (not saying these things are bad, I do them myself!)--I am instead drawn to the blogs where I can sense the genuine enthusiasm for reading in the reviews, where I can connect to the blogger as a person, or I am challenged to see things in a new and different way.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is this. Dear book bloggers, I love you so much, and I want you to know our worth is not determined by our access to ARCS, to whether or not ALA and BEA let us in their doors, to our recognition by the industry, or if our reviews appear as blurbs on books. Those are bright, shiny, fun, distracting things, it's true. But our worth, our real worth is found in the friendships we've made, in the connections to readers we've established, in the books we've been exposed to, in the ideas we've shared, in the enthusiastic love for a world of reading we've been lucky and privileged enough to participate in. It's so cheesy, but it's true, they can't take those things away from us.

So I mean while personally I hope bloggers will still have access to BEA and ALA in the years to come (they are great forums for bloggers to connect with others and see authors), I just think the question of worth and value that has been thrown about has been distracting and misleading, and quite frankly, insulting. There will always be books to talk about, we don't have to only be talking about the newest ones.

TV Stuff

As promised, I started The West Wing. after two episodes I was, admittedly, like WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS? But I've watched a couple more and I like it better, it's growing on me. So maybe I'll finish the first season sometime this summer.

I also started the second season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I stalled out after what was clearly a filler episode. I'll get back to it, but since I've actually been blogging and reading and stuff this week, it's going slower than I thought!

Bunheads: Uuugh. I want to like this so much, but I still found the third episode, while an improvement over the second, difficult to watch. I don't exactly know how long I'll keep watching, we'll see.

Also, I read this interview with the creator of Awkward which makes me want to give the show another shot. I like that she denounces fan influence on storylines and love that she wants to portray normal people of faith!

And...TVD. I saw Julie Plec tweet that in their minds Tyler was complicit with Bonnie's plan for Klaus's body invasion. Which....IDK, makes me really confused. Because if Bonnie was willing to obtain Tyler's permission, why wouldn't they just tell everyone? There is absolutely no reason for them not to tell anyone ESPECIALLY CAROLINE that Klaus is still alive and in Tyler's body. So...this is a really huge plot hole to me and makes me doubtful about next season.

Anyway, I hope you all have great weeks planned! Those of you from the States, do you have anything planned for the 4th? It's kind of weird how it's on a Wednesday this year, I don't know. Also, is everyone keeping cool? Let me know how you are, and have a wonderful week!


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